What exactly is that flying, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whooshing through the air? It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s a drone.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is extremely hesitant to allow UAV’s to be deployed into the air, yet there have been several success stories in terms of drone innovation, search and rescue missions, and just downright entertainment.
Several big companies are trying to capitalize on the up-and-coming drone industry with Amazon leading the pack by hogging the media’s attention in the recent months with its December 2013 announcement of Amazon Prime Air. Amazon unveiled its innovative drone-based delivery service that would deploy drones to deliver packages. In order to qualify for Prime Air delivery and the 30-minute delivery time, packages must be less than five pounds, which accounts for over 80 percent of all Amazon packages.
Even media companies are starting to jump on the bandwagon because drones could radically change the field of journalism. CNN has expressed interest in using drones to obtain live, on-scene coverage. Stunning video footage of an ongoing tornado or aerial footage of sporting events are simple tasks for camera-equipped drones. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, AZ based company, Sensintel, created several small drones called Coyotes that fly into hurricanes to help detect the intensity of storms.
Dan Lubrich, a local drone enthusiast who holds a PhD in physics from Oxford University, has been working closely with drones for the past two years and is a member at Mesa’s HeatSync Labs. Lubrich says, “In my opinion an even larger potential exists for the civil use of drones. The rapid delivery of goods is one example: rather than taking a regular trip to the supermarket, drones could deliver groceries at exactly the requested time. Security, surveillance, firefighting and law enforcement is another area in which drones have huge potential.”
Here’s a video of one of Dan’s drones in action:
Perhaps the most socially conscious benefit stemming from drone use is utilizing drones for search and rescue missions. EquuSearch, a Houston, Texas company, has employed UAV’s equipped with cameras to help in the search for hundreds of missing person cases across the nation and can attribute 11 rescues directly to the use of UAV’s. But in April 2014, EquuSearch sued the FAA over their restrictions on the use of civilian drones.
Right now, there are approximately 84,000 missing person cases around the country and EquuSearch has the ability to aid in the search because of their innovative drones. An average flight time for a drone is around 10-25 minutes giving the pilot enough time with several batteries to scan an area miles in diameter. One drone can search a widespread area in minutes that might take an entire group of ground personnel to cover in hours.
UAV’s have countless applications from delivering your mail to the media’s use during live stories. Drones are even being used to track weather events and assist in search and rescue missions. Once the FAA updates their guidelines for unmanned aerial vehicle use, we might be seeing more drones zooming through the sky.
For AZTB’s past coverage of drones click here